Leader: As an eagle stirs up her nest and hovers over her young . . .
All: As she spreads her wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on her pinions . . .
Leader: God guides and protects us. She sets us atop the heights of the land . . .
All: And nurses us with honey from the crags, and milk from the flocks.
* Gathering Prayer (Unison)
Mothering God, God of our mothers, we thank you for the gift of life and those who gave it to us. Give us the grace to embrace our mothers in all their complexity. Bless our mothering so that those who are entrusted to our care might grow healthy and strong. May they remain safe and happy long after their need for our continual care has passed. We remember those who have cared for us and are gone. May we honor their sacrifice by following their example. Amen.
Prayer of Dedication
We dedicate our lives to your service and our hearts to your worship, Holy God. Amen.
God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, you call us to leave behind the familiar and venture into the unknown. You called our ancestor Abraham to leave his home and family in Ur and follow your call to a land that his descendants would inherit. Generations later one of those descendants named Jesus would leave the safety of his father’s carpenter shop to lead a movement that would challenge the authority of Rome. Like his ancestor Abraham, Jesus dreamed God’s dream of peace and justice for all. Give us a new dream for a new day. Amen.
Hallelujah, I am not alone. Holy God, you walk beside me even through the darkest valley. You walk beside us. Intimate in every way. You feel our fear. You celebrate our joy. You encourage our hope.
Good shepherd, teach us that every moment is your moment, every pasture your domain. Whether you lead us beside still waters or whether our steps take us into the storm’s blast, you are beside us. Your rod and your staff comfort us.
We often stray. Our discontent, our wish that this moment were somehow other than it is, takes us down all kinds of blind alleys and roads that lead to nowhere. Call us back. Seek us out. Take us in your arms and carry us home, your home, which is right here.
Dad used to say to me, “You’re just like your mother.” It was not meant as a compliment. Mom and Dad didn’t get along very well. He saw her as weak and indecisive while at the same time claiming she was scheming and manipulative. In reality, my mother is none of these things. After his death, I gained access to Dad’s medical records which included a diagnosis of “narcissistic personality with a histrionic flair.” This meant that he had a tendency to view himself as persecuted. Dad was gay, and he did have deeply wounding experiences of homophobia. But it was as if he had persecution goggles welded to his face. No matter how much Mom or any of us tried to love him, he had a very difficult time accepting it. The point is, Dad’s accusations weren’t personal. It was the mental illness talking.
It’s also possible that Dad heard the words “you’re just like your mother” said to him when he was a boy. He shared with me that in his mind he was “special” and his mother’s “favorite.” In Dad’s time as in ours, the accusation of being a “momma’s boy” often meant bullying was on the way. Clearly, Dad enjoyed the attention he got from his mother. And he was very close to her. But the relationship between mothers and sons can be complicated. This is due in no small part to sexism and discomfort in the wider culture with males who display “female” qualities (the premise of which I reject all together, by the way. There are no essentially “male” or “female” qualities, only human ones.)
Dad’s accusations often had no basis in reality, but I hope he was right that I am just like my mother. She is strong. She is good. She is an adventurer. And she has never stopped growing and changing in all of the time I’ve known her. She is a happily retired minister and chaplain who has traveled the world and blessed countless lives–not least, mine.
As a kid I loved adventure. I would spend hours playing outdoors either with friends or by myself. It didn’t matter. As long as there was a hill to be climbed, a trail to be followed, insects to catch, flowers to pick, game to track, berries to harvest, a fort to build it didn’t matter to me whether I was alone or accompanied. I loved to explore.
When it got too dark to play outside, I followed the street lights home, where mom ususally had a casserole in the oven. Soon it was time to set the table for supper. Afterwards it was dishes and homework and lying in bed reading about adventures: Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Just writing it down makes it all seem like a quaint, distant world.
Nevertheless, what I realize now is that safe-enough space to explore on my own, use my imagination, and create adventures with minimal parental supervision was key to who I have become. I still love adventure. I’m happiest when I’m facing the joy and fear of the unknown over the horizon. I didn’t realize it at the time but the safe-enough space I experienced as a child gave me the mix of confidence and caution that has made bigger and bigger adult adventures surviveable, enjoyable, and transformative.
Two weeks ago First Congregational Church of Granby did a worship and workshop around the theme “Know Your ‘Why?’” We explored both our personal “whys” and our “why” as a congregation, that is, what is our purpose? First we had to slog through what turned out to be a series of items that we thought were “whys” but turned out to be “whats.” For example, “To feed the hungry.” That turned about to be “what” we do. The question is why feed the hungry? Finally, after hours of deep conversation, tears, and several attempts at articulating powerful, inarticulate longings of the heart, we came up with “A safe place to explore who you truly are and who God is calling you to be.”
I would say a “safe-enough” place or space is key to all spiritual development. A part of my kid adventures was the possibility of injury, discomfort, getting lost and then reoriented. My vision for First Congregational Church is that we create a spiritual container large enough for each of us to experiment, fail, make mistakes, repent, bactine and bandage our boo-boos, and develop our own sense of self-confidence and self-worth that is not overly dependent on others’ approval. The abundant life Jesus promised is rooted in the declaration at Jesus’ baptism and ours: “You are my beloved child. In you I am well-pleased.” Rev. William Sloane Coffin said, “Faith is not belief without proof but trust without reservation.” Foundational trust in the boundless love of God makes every adventure possible.